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Apollo killing the Cyclops
Domenichino and assistants
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Apollo in a red cloak shoots his arrows at two one-eyed men, one of whom lies prostrate on the ground as the other flees. These are the Cyclops, a mythical race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of his forehead. This scene is one of ten frescoes which originally adorned the walls of a garden pavilion in the grounds of the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, near Rome. Eight of them were transferred to canvas and are now in our collection.

The picture is painted as a trompe l'oeil tapestry with an embroidered border. This is drawn up in the lower right corner to reveal a dwarf chained to a barred window, fruit and a plate with leftovers, some of which have been stolen by a cat. The dwarf was a retainer of the villa’s owner, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, who ordered the artist to paint him like this as a punishment for impertinence.

Key facts
Artist Domenichino and assistants
Artist dates 1581 - 1641
Full title Apollo killing the Cyclops
Group Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes
Date made 1616-18
Medium and support Fresco, transferred to canvas and mounted on board
Dimensions 316.3 x 190.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1958
Inventory number NG6290
Location in Gallery Room 13
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Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes

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These large frescoes (now transferred to canvas) once decorated the walls of a spectacular pavilion in one of the great Italian Baroque gardens.

The Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati was rebuilt by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, nephew of Pope Clement VIII, in the early years of the seventeenth century. Immediately behind the palace, he built a large classical pavilion and decorated it with fountains, statues and paintings. Domenichino’s frescoes – two of which remain in situ – were arranged around a room called the Stanza di Apollo, which also contained a musical fountain representing Mount Parnassus, the mythical home of the Greek sun god Apollo and the Muses. Based on themes drawn from the Greek myths, the iconographical programme glorified the triumph of the Catholic Church, and the role of the Aldobrandini family in it, emphasising the superiority of the intellect over the emotions.

Although Domenichino designed the pictures, much of the actual painting was done by assistants.

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